• 2008 Kawasaki KLR 650

    2008 Kawasaki KLR 650
  • 2008 Kawasaki KLR 650
  • 2008 Kawasaki KLR 650
  • 2008 Kawasaki KLR 650
  • 2008 Kawasaki KLR 650
  • 2008 Kawasaki KLR 650
  • 2008 Kawasaki KLR 650
  • 2008 Kawasaki KLR 650
  • 2008 Kawasaki KLR 650
  • 2008 Kawasaki KLR 650
  • 2008 Kawasaki KLR 650
  • 2008 Kawasaki KLR 650

New 2008 Kawasaki KLR650 Refines On-Road Capabilities for Improved Touring Performance

  • 2008 Kawasaki KLR 650
  • Year:
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Liquid-cooled, four-stroke, DOHC, four-valve single
  • Transmission:
  • Displacement:
    651 L
  • Price:

The new KLR650 is well suited to life on the highways, deserts, mountains or even the challenging terrain of today’s urban jungle. For 21 years, the Kawasaki KLR650 has been the smart choice for riders seeking reliable on and off-road performance. Now, the 2008 KLR650 features thorough updates aimed at making it a better tour-ready dual-purpose bike than ever before.
Featuring new suspension and brakes, the KLR650 is a fun, functional commuter during the week and an adept dirt road blaster on weekends. The new 41mm front forks now have less static sag for a taut, smooth ride on pavement. Front suspension travel is reduced from 9.1 in. to 7.9 in. A redesigned UNI-TRAK linkage reduces sag and compliments the new front suspension by reducing rear wheel travel from 8.1 in. to 7.3 in. The 2008 KLR650 features enhanced stopping power, thanks to a new 280mm petal-style front brake rotor that’s similar to ones used on Kawasaki’s Ninja sportbikes. Rear braking performance is also improved, thanks to a new rear brake calliper. These new suspension and brake upgrades boost the KLR650’s on-road performance, without diminishing its versatile off-road capabilities.

Several new refinements help make the KLR650 an even more worthy touring companion. There’s a larger rear luggage rack that’s 3.5 in. longer and 5.1 in. wider than the old rack, and a new, narrower tail section which makes it easier to mount saddlebags. Wind protection is also improved with all-new bodywork featuring a taller windscreen and large shrouds. A large 6.1-gallon fuel tank and miserly fuel economy mean the new KLR650 retains its legendary range between fill-ups.

Riders will be able to take full advantage of the KLR’s range, thanks to a revised seat design and new urethane foam for greater long-distance comfort. A high-capacity 36W alternator powers a new higher-output headlight and offers extra capacity to power the add-on electronic gadgets touring riders can’t live without.

The KLR650 motor, already renowned for being rugged, reliable and powerful, is now even better. There’s improved throttle response from revised ignition mapping, and revised cam timing contributes to improved high-rpm performance. A redesigned cylinder head boasts new intake porting for greater low-end torque and quicker throttle response in city traffic, as well as improved top-end power for high-speed cruising on the open road.

More on-road competence doesn’t mean less off-road fun. The KLR650 has a U.S. Forest Service-approved spark arrestor for access to any road open to licensed vehicles, and a tough engine guard protects the engine from loose rocks and gravel. With an optional Kawasaki tank bag and soft luggage on the larger standard rear rack, KLR650 owners can tote enough gear for an extended trip to any remote location.

All these improvements mean that more than ever, the new KLR650 is the ideal go-farther, multi-surface motorcycle for riders craving on and off-road adventure.

2008 Kawasaki KLR 650
- image 169606
2008 Kawasaki KLR 650


651cc Four-stroke Single

Revised cam timing contributes to improved high-rpm performance
New intake porting offers greater low-end torque
New piston rings are thinner and have more tension, for improved oil consumption
New one-piece exhaust pipe features smoother bends for improved exhaust efficiency at all rpm
Special tuning to improve low- and mid-range power
Light, silent cam chain reduces engine noise
Oil-level window permits easy and accurate inspection

Liquid Cooling

New Denso radiator is thin and lightweight. Fitted with a lightweight and thin cooling fan, the new radiator has a greater cooling area and offers a 20% increase in cooling efficiency
Maintains consistent engine temperatures for long engine life and sustained power during hard use
Allows tighter engine clearances for quieter running
Automatic fan keeps things cool in all conditions
Includes a temperature gauge

Four-valve Cylinder Head

Better breathing for more power at all rpm
Compact combustion chamber allows increased compression ratio with less detonation
The use of a secondary air (ASV) system helps reduce harmful exhaust emissions
Provides maximum valve area for optimum flow
Boosts low-end torque

Double Engine Balancer

Engine runs smoothly from idle to redline for rider comfort and less fatigue on long rides

Fully Transistorised Ignition

Fully transistorised ignition unit replaces the earlier analog CDI for better ignition performance
More precisely controls timing no matter how fast the rpm changes
Fewer moving parts for long, trouble-free life

Five-speed Transmission

Designed to handle the engine’s unique power characteristics
The engine’s broad torque curve only requires five speeds for off-road and relaxed highway cruising
O-ring drive chain reduces maintenance and increases chain service life

Handlebar-mounted Choke

Convenient location makes starting and warm-up easier

Revised Front Suspension

New, beefier 41mm front fork is offers increased rigidity. (Previous unit was 38mm)
Re-calibrated suspension offers less static sag and now offers greater on-road riding performance.
Front suspension stroke was reduced from 9.1 in. to 7.9 in.
High-mounted front fender for any adventure-touring situation

Revised UNI-TRAK Rear Suspension

Rear suspension travel was reduced from 8.1 in. to 7.3 in. but usable travel is unaffected due to a reduction in static sag
New D-section swingarm contributes to the bike’s excellent traction
Redesigned UNI-TRAK linkage compliments front suspension changes
Progressive rate provides a smoother, more controlled ride
Features a five-way preload shock absorber with four-way rebound damping

Stronger Wheels

New 4mm spokes (up from 3.5mm) provide increased wheel stiffness, enhanced handling performance and improved steering response.

Semi-double Cradle Frame

Made of high-tech, round-section, high-tensile steel

Engine Guard

Protects engine from rocks and trail debris when the going gets tough

Detachable Rear Subframe

Simplifies maintenance by providing better access to the rear shock, airbox and carburetor
Large rear cargo rack included

Front and Rear Disc Brakes

New lightweight front and rear petal discs offer excellent braking.
Front brake disc diameter increased from 260mm to 280mm.
New rear calliper offers improved feel and power

Electric Starter

Easy and convenient starting

Lighting and USFS-Approved Spark Arrestor

New dual-bulb headlamp offers greater night visibility
New high-mounted turn signals improve the KLR650’s visibility at night or under poor visibility conditions
Rear taillight parking light
U.S. Forest Service-approved spark arrestor

Large 6.1-gallon Fuel Tank

Significant capacity permits adventure touring

Additional Comfort and Touring Features

All-new bodywork features a larger fairing, which contributes to increased wind protection
Alternator output has been increased from 14.5A to 17A. Total capacity is 36W to provide ample power for the new headlight as well as add-on grip heaters and other accessories
New, easy-to-read instrument panel is mounted to the frame, contributing to lighter steering
Full instrumentation includes a large-face speedometer, tachometer, odometer, trip meter and water temperature gauge
Firmer urethane seat foam offers greater comfort for long-distance riding
Seat height is lower, but reduced suspension sag means the rider’s ability to reach the ground is about the same
Optional extended warranty

2008 Kawasaki KLR 650
- image 169604
2008 Kawasaki KLR 650


Engine:  Liquid-cooled, four-stroke, DOHC, four-valve single
Displacement:  651cc
Bore x stroke:  100mm x 83mm
Compression ratio:  9.8:1
Carburetion:  Keihin CVK40
Transmission:  Five-speed
Final drive:  O-ring chain
Frame:  Semi-double cradle, high-tensile steel
Rake:  28 degrees
Front suspension:  41mm telescopic fork, 7.9 inches of travel
Rear suspension:  UNI-TRAK single-shock system with five-way preload and stepless rebound damping, 7.3 inches of travel
Front tire:  90/90-21
Rear tire:  130/80-17
Front brake: 280mm petal disc with hydraulic dual-piston caliper
Rear brake:  240mm petal disc with hydraulic dual-piston caliper
Overall length:  90.3 inches
Overall width:  37.8 inches
Overall height:  53.1 inches
Seat height:  35 inches
Wheelbase: 58.3 inches
Ground clearance:  8.3 inches
Fuel capacity: 6.1 gallons
Dry weight:  386 pounds
MSRP:  $5,349

2008 Kawasaki KLR 650
- image 169602
2008 Kawasaki KLR 650

First impression

The Kawasaki KLR650 has been a long-standing model in Kawasaki’s lineup, having been introduced in 1987 and remaining almost unchanged through the 2007 model. Kawasaki has announced that the 2008 model will be the first significant redesign of the KLR650.

For 2008 the Kawasaki KLR650 has received many updates aimed at continuing its tradition as being the most reliable and touring ready dual sport on the road. It includes new front and rear suspension that both reduce the wheel travel. It also features a new petal style front rotor for increased heat dissipation, and resistance to warping. The KLR650 motorcycle is heavier than specialized off-road dirt bikes, but it can handle most conditions when ridden carefully by a skilled rider. To improve upon its touring abilities Kawasaki lengthened the luggage rack 3.5 inches, added all new body work with a taller windscreen. It now features high output headlights, and the time tested engine has been updated with a throttle position sensor, revised ignition mapping and cam timing, as well as a revised cylinder head.

This motorcycle is considered by many to be one of the best all-round motorcycles made, with legions of fans and websites for support & add-ons.

KLRs have been ridden to the Arctic, across North and South America, and throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia, as well as on full global circumnavigation rides. Nicknames include "The Mule" and "The Tractor."

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Show Comments


  (1) posted on 05.15.2008

I just bought the bike less than 2-weeks ago it is everything that I could have expected.

I have owner Honda XL enduros in the past and still maintain an XR for strictly off road but I needed a street commuter with gas prices as they are and this is my first time on the street in over 10-years.

I would have rather had the KTM Adventurer or Triumph Tiger but those bikes are out of my budget and also because of the price a high theft liability. This bike is perfect for me and I researched it well since last year on KLR forums. The previous model was much more dirt worthy than this model. The 2008 as Kawasaki describes is a street bike with a little bit of dirt built in. Over 80 improvements over the 2007 model including suspension, brakes, instrumentation, cylinder head, frame, seat, etc. So far during break in its been a joy to ride and for those who ride mostly street it is great at that.

  (6020) posted on 03.27.2008

I am quite interested in this bike. I have a crf450 that I ride/race off-road. I’m looking for something primarily on-road with some off-road capability. The new changes seem to fit my needs.

  (6020) posted on 03.5.2008

personaly i like the new klr its faster so thats a definite plus and im going from a honda 919 to a klr 650, yeah i know some call me crazy buy i misss the offroad , with new style i get to keep a street look too,lets face it id rather go 100 mile an hour on a paved corner than dirt!!

  (1) posted on 05.26.2007

I had a 00’. It was the perfect urban bike. However, taking it to out of the city wasn’t good at all. Little power and uncomfortable ride. There are some major elevation changes between Santa Fe and Albuquerque on I25 North. On some of those hills my KLR bearly made it to the top. Anyone who takes this bike offroading lost his mind. I am talking real off roading, not just the dirt road behind the house. For off roading this bike is huge. The 08 KLR in my opinion lost its cool, bad-ass look. It kinda looks like the Vstrom.
I also rememer, that it took me 1 year on the brand new bike to finally replace all the loose factory parts, screws that were falling off because of either poor design or bad installation.
Overall it was a good bike, but I would not get another one.

  (1) posted on 03.28.2007

Alternator output has been increased from 14.5A to 17A. Total capacity is 36W to provide ample power for the new headlight as well as add-on grip heaters and other accessories, for those who did not read or write correctly.......
I think this is a GREAT, cheap, all around bike, compared to other brands.

  (6020) posted on 12.2.2006

and by the way the "08" looks to -good- to take off road i’ll stick with my "06"

  (6020) posted on 12.2.2006

as some of you may be aware of this most however may not be, of all the bikes throughout history that have served the U.S.Military, the KLR 650 is the current one serving the U.S.Mil. and it is doing a fine job from what I here. It is being used by the U.S. Marines, it is hoever modified, ’more aggresive tires, ---diesel mods,—yes, converted to diesel eng.----and an even larger fuel tank,mpg still remain in the same area may be a little better --- top speed in the neighborhood of 80-85 mph and a subdued desert sand paint job,plus some more mods. I sure, ///// Before I bought the "06" that I have at the house,I had looked and researched,what type of bike I wanted and would fit my style for six months,and then looked around for about a year,to find out if there were any changes and find the least price dealer,o.k. and to also generate the money to buy it out right,and now I only look back in the mirrors — and I miss it very much being deployed at this time,but it is in good hands with my brothers smiley who have had nothing but great comments about it since i first got it in OCT. 05 and they will exercize it regularly for the year that i am gone unless I’m extended, ?:-!

  (6020) posted on 11.21.2006

What about the doo-hickey??? I have a 02 and my buddy a 00 and when we checked out the so called doo-hickey our’s both had broken springs. I haven’t seen where this problem was covered. Also I’m curious how much more they will be asking for the bike. I’ll guess $1000.00 plus..

  (6020) posted on 11.17.2006

I will stick with my aztec red 2006.Do not purchase the new bike until it can prove better than the old bikes. I have aftermarket brakes,braided lines,corbin seat,high performance spark plug and a comfortable rear spring.with each upgrade I made sure the new parts weighed less than the oem parts if possible. I bet my 06 will outrun the new 08. AND MOST OF ALL JUMP BETTER,MUD BETTER,ETC> just better off road manners. if i take that new bird beak thru one of my playgrounds(the clay pits or the 50 ft. drop in albany ga.) i bet that suspension will not hold up.

  (6020) posted on 11.14.2006

Has anyone seen any rider reviews? How dirtable will this "new" KLR be?

  (6020) posted on 11.14.2006

Well folks it’s the end of an era the great KLR650 has gone METRO-SEXUAL. That’s right a bike for the urban jungle. It is as though it had hit every branch down the perverbial "ugly tree" and somehow will survive for the time being.

I respect everyone’s opionion about it, but I’ll have to disagree with the folks who like the new look. The engineering improvements are a bonus, but it won’t please the core KLR diehards as to why in the heck Kawasaki didn’t fix these issues years ago.

I bought the last year of this great icon and will ride it till the wheels fall off.

  (6020) posted on 11.13.2006

I own a 1994 KLR650 with 40,000 miles. The best bike ever! I am glad to have additional braking, though. They seemed to have made the right changes without destroying the fundamental bike we love.San Francisco

  (6020) posted on 11.10.2006

I owned a 2002 KLR for 4 yrs. Loved it after several mods. they need 10 more H.P., a sixth gear for more low end torque on trails.
I do like the shorter suspension, the front forks on old model were not very good. Also like the revised front end body work, I like more wind protection but thats my personal preference.

  (6020) posted on 11.5.2006

I think I just ordered one of the last good ones. 07 KLR. I have a garage full of street bikes and by looking at the specs on the 08 KLR it looks like they are heading more for the street with reduced suspension travel, etc. There are enough gravel back roads in my area to ride literally for days without going pavement. I have not yet gotten used to the look of the 08"s, but maybe it (the beak) will grow on me. If I could not have gotten the 07 KLR I would’ve just ordered a XR650L Honda. They are still better off road, but not quite as good all around.

  (6020) posted on 11.4.2006

Bout time Kawasaki upgraded the great KLR650! The KLR has always favored street riding with limited off-road capability. No surprise the new model is faithful to its traditional role. A six-speed box would be a costly $$$ trade-off for insignificant gains in my opinion. The new engine will likely make owners forget about 6 speeds. The front fender gives a sharper, more aggressive look. I like it. The new model incorporates many of the after-market fixes available for older models, so Kawasaki management listened, took notes, then acted. The KLR650 is a unique niche motorcycle with tremendous capabilities in an affordable package. 21 years in production proves it beyond question. It’s now more so with the 2008 upgrade. Another 21 years?

  (6020) posted on 11.4.2006

Great... more compressed oatmeal bolts and plastic fairings to fly off. I’d enjoy a stronger front sus. I bent mine after one particualarly nasty motorcross track incident. I usually bottom the front forks out at least 3 times a lap. I’ll be switching to progressive springs this winter. I’d also like the color to stay 2006 Kawi Green so we don’t get hit by Grandma or go ahead and have it Urban Camouflage so I don’t get caught doing a wheelie again. Maybe they’ll let me test ride a 2008.

  (6020) posted on 11.3.2006

I’m disappointed to see Kawasaki market the bike toward the wannabe adventure rider that will really only ride the bike on the street. My would have been, better brakes, 10 more hp, six-speed close ratio trans (for a lower 1st and 2nd gear), and a rear spring capable of carrying a husky american. Other than the syling changes, I’d rather keep my 2006.

  (6020) posted on 11.3.2006

Well.... I think it looks cool. I like the new headlight design. Plus, I’d rather have a bike that is better on the highway but can still do some trails and get dirty.

  (6020) posted on 10.31.2006

Everything else aside, that front fender looks butt ugly! Looks like a deformed beak on a prehistoric bird. Is Kawasaki trying to compete with the Suzuki DL650?(which is a far better performing bike on the street), my opinion for what it’s worth, Kawasaki should have not changed the looks but improved suspension, brakes, and the infamous doohickey. I’ll stick with my ’03 model.

  (6020) posted on 10.29.2006

I say they’re going the wrong direction(street).Suspension should be much more adjustable for both street and road(rebound,compression,spring,and air)..
The KLR650 has always needed better front brakes.

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